Disaster Preparedness and Your Pet
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, many states passed laws mandating provisions for dogs and cats in an evacuation. However, owners need to be ready in case of a disaster, too. Here is the information you need to be prepared.
Your dog needs the same things you do to survive an emergency: food, water, shelter, and any medications he usually takes. Three days worth of supplies is suggested, but seven days is better. Sometimes it takes longer for help to arrive than expected.
You also need to be prepared to evacuate. The food supply should be kept in a water proof container you can lift easily. You should also have a backpack with a first aid kit, extra leash, extra collar, a copy of the current rabies certificate and shot records, and any other items crucial to your dog’s wellbeing. Keep in mind that a favorite toy can make a lot of difference to a frightened pet who does not understand what is happening.
Dogs being dogs, you also need a sanitation kit. This is a set of trash bags, paper towels, short handled popper scoopers, and similar items. Include a container of bleach so you can disinfect things as needed. If necessary, you can disinfect drinking water with the bleach by adding 16 drops of bleach per gallon of water and waiting 20-30 minutes. Use straight bleach, not something with additives.
Your dog should be wearing a collar with identification tags. You should include a picture of your dog and you together, however, to prove ownership if the dog loses his collar. That may happen in an emergency as things get very chaotic.
Shelters have to allow household pets now. However, pets are required to be crated in a separate area of the room from humans. Your dog really needs to be able to tolerate being crated for the evacuation period with bathroom breaks. Otherwise, a stressful situation will be just that much worse. Teach your dog now that the crate is a bedroom with water, food, and a toy, not a prison.
Now that you have your evacuation kit, keep it near your kit. You will need to rotate the items such as food and medicine so that they remain good. You also need a plan for when you need to use the kit.
Think through your health and mobility and that of your animals. Make a realistic assessment of what it will take to make you decide to evacuate your home and go to a shelter. Make a list of the range of disasters and decide where each one is as far as your being willing to evacuate. If you think of this ahead of time, you are much less likely to panic and make decisions you will regret.
Find someone who lives near you who can help evacuate your pets if you are not home when the evacuation order comes. If you are at work, or just at the store, will someone get your pets out before the area is sealed off? Make those arrangements now. A buddy system with someone who has a different schedule than you do is ideal for this.
Standards for dealing with emergencies change all the time. Every disaster brings lessons. You can find the latest standards and suggestions for dealing with emergencies at www.ready.gov. Your veterinarian will also have information on current standards. Discussing your evacuation plans with your veterinarian is always a good idea. They can add information and make suggestions based on their knowledge of your particular pets.